Southern California real estate agent Ken Bannister went bananas—literally—more than 40 years ago. What began as his marketing strategy of handing out banana stickers at conventions ripened into a full-blown persona as the “Banana Man.” He’s amassed nearly 20,000 artifacts now on display at the Banana Museum.
It’s just one of the odd collections found across America. Whether devoted to barbed wire or Bigfoot, most of these strange museums spring from the passionate hobbies of individuals like Bannister. And their labors of love are a reminder that what can be considered worthy to collect is as varied as the country itself.
Unlike major institutions displaying Picasso paintings, Egyptian sarcophagi, or Jeff Koons’s latest balloon animal, these strange museums are rarely crowded. You certainly won’t confuse New York’s MoMA with MOMA—the self-described “museum of meat awesomeness” devoted to SPAM in Austin, MN.